TampaWell: mobile app feeds community's appetite for health and wellness

Tampa General Hospital, the City of Tampa and a contingent of community partners launched TampaWell last year in an effort to make Tampa the healthiest community in the nation. The campaign focuses on preventative measures – getting exercise, eating healthy food and doing things to improve mental well-being, such as getting enough quality sleep.

It’s modeled on a program in the Romagna region of Italy, where doctors write prescriptions for exercising and eating healthy food, says Rachel Bozich, TampaWell project manager at TGH. There, some 250 public and private organizations promote community wellness as a way to reduce the rates of chronic disease and serious health issues.

“Their program has been around for about 20 years and they have seen such positive results that they renamed the area where this is taking place. It’s now named Wellness Valley,’’ Bozich says. 

Tampa is following suit. TGH physicians are prescribing exercise for patients to prevent heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke and other chronic illnesses.
To help spread the word about getting healthy, TGH  has now launched TampaWell, a mobile app providing daily fitness tips, short articles on maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a guide to where people can find fitness groups and wellness events in Tampa.

“That’s something that you can’t really find anywhere else,’’ Bozich says.
It also has a motivational feature that rewards “wellness coins’’ for achieving fitness goals. The coins can be redeemed for a gift, Bozich says, such as a meal in a restaurant that serves healthy food.

The daily fitness feature adapts to the level of the participant. 

“For example, for a beginner, it might just say go for a quarter-mile walk to get steps,” Bozich says. “For someone more advanced, how about go for a four-mile run?”
Bozich says in the future the app will also feature videos of local medical experts talking about various health conditions.

“If we’re talking about October (breast cancer awareness month) and the importance of prevention, getting a mammogram, then we could have one of our surgeons, for example, comment on the importance of nutrition related to cancer prevention, or talking about, ‘Don’t forget, it’s October; it’s time to get your mammogram,’" she says.

Tampa General, the city and their community organization partners launched the TampaWell campaign last May by breaking ground on an acre-size community garden at the Family Care Center Healthpark in East Tampa, which serves a community that is considered to be a food desert, with no easy means to getting healthy food. A food pantry under construction should be ready by the end of the summer. It will provide free food to people in the low-income community.

The community garden should be ready for planting at about the same time, Bozich says.

“Hopefully the following season we’ll be able to harvest,” she says.

For more information, go to TampaWell.

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Philip Morgan is a freelance writer living in St. Petersburg. He is an award-winning reporter who has covered news in the Tampa Bay area for more than 50 years. Phil grew up in Miami and graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism. He joined the Lakeland Ledger, where he covered police and city government. He spent 36 years as a reporter for the former Tampa Tribune. During his time at the Tribune, he covered welfare and courts and did investigative reporting before spending 30 years as a feature writer. He worked as a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times for 12 years. He loves writing stories about interesting people, places and issues.